V. Reaching out to Them

Now that you’ve picked someone to ask, how do you ask him and why will he say yes? This part of the process can often take the longest and require the most persistence. You will need to be okay with being rejected or ignored, emailing or contacting someone multiple times, and working hard to get interviews. Over the course of graduate school, I emailed and followed up with the same person over ten times before I was able to meet with him. The crazy part was: he really didn’t mind. I was one of 100’s of emails he got per day, and he didn’t think I was bothering him at all. Getting the interview is the hardest part of the process.

Why is someone going to talk to you in the first place?

When I first started doing informationals, I constantly wondered why anyone would say yes to my request for one. I have been ignored far more than responded to “yes” or “no”. Looking back through a season of lots of interviews, I was only responded to by 30-40% of warm introductions and maybe ten percent of cold introductions. Usually people I’ve asked have never done an informational interview, do not know what to expect, and need to be explained why you want to meet with them.

These barriers are low enough, though, even if the interviewee has his initial objections. Why? People love to help, love to give and it makes them feel good. It strokes their egos, making them feel important enough for someone to ask about their life and to learn from them. Most people love giving advice and offering to help in any way possible. Many just need a reason or forum to do so, but no one has ever asked. I am continually amazed at how many “industry veterans” I meet who tell me: “I love doing these, but I only do a handful each year. I really don’t understand why more people don’t reach out?”

But if this is true, then why was I ignored so many times? I usually chalk it up to 90% busyness and 10% “they don’t want to meet with you.” I now get hundreds of emails per day and it is difficult to give a thoughtful response to non-priority emails. Generally, I often ignore one-off emails from people I don’t know or save them for later. These saved emails often get lost. Busy seasons cause non-urgent emails to be skipped over. Often I may not respond to someone until they have emailed me two to three times so I know they are serious and not just blasting emails to hundreds of people. Persistence is key and you really cannot bug someone too much in our modern “always on” world. The first thing you need to do is ask!

A Simple Script

Asking for an informational interview is simple and follows a simple script:

Who am I?

What am I asking for?

Why?

Why should you meet with me? – Our connection

Why should you meet with me? – Why it’s going to be good for you.

Call to Action

To make this concrete, below is the “form request email” I’ve used in hundreds of emails and conversations to get informationals. Below I will discuss it in depth.

Ron:

I am an MRED Candidate at USC and I would like to request an Informational Interview with you to discuss your insights and perspective on real estate. I received your contact information from Eliot Jones at Clarion and he thought it would be good for me to meet with you. I am especially interested in Industrial Real Estate and would love to hear your experiences in this field and Watson’s current activity.

I am available at during the following times to meet with you at your convenience:

Tuesday                8am-1pm

Wednesdays         All Day

Thursdays            Lunch

Fridays                  All Day

Thank you again for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

A Simple Script – In Detail

Breaking down the email into parts, you can see the system emerge. You should modify and change each individual part to suit your needs. Areas you’ll need to edit are in [brackets]. Feel free to copy and paste it into your browser and hack away.

Who am I?

“I am an [MRED Candidate at USC] and…”

You don’t have to be someone important to ask! I believe the less important you are, the higher likelihood you will get an interview. Describe who you are in three to four words. It can be:

  • a student at Fresno State
  • a property manager at DDG
  • an intern at Generation Homes
  • a waiter at Joe’s

What am I asking for?

“…I would like to request an Informational Interview with you…“

No need to change this one. You may rephrase if you’d like to say “I’d like to grab coffee with you” or “Catch up with you” or something similar. However, I would recommend keeping it as is so the other person knows exactly what you are asking for and why. You’d hate for the person to think “Why is this person asking me to coffee or trying to catch up? What do they want?” Requesting an informational interview lets them know you are here to learn from them and that is it.

Why?

“…to discuss your insights and perspective on [real estate].”

Fill in the field/industry this person is in or the job they have. If you want to learn about marketing, accounting, or acting, write that in. Keep it broad, you’ll fill-in more further down.

Why should you meet with me? – Our connection

“[I received your contact information from Eliot Jones at Clarion and he] thought it would be good for me to meet with you.”

If you don’t have a warm connection or were not personally introduced to the person you are asking, find something that connects you! For me this has been as widespread as:

  • “I received your contact information from Eliot Jones at Clarion and…
  • “I found your contact info on Linkedin and …
  • “I saw you speak at the NAIOP conference and …
  • “I really liked your blog post on such and such and…
  • “We work in the same office building and …
  • “I saw the story in the paper about you and…

…I thought it would be good to meet with you.”

All of the above work. Any connection (no matter how tenuous) is a connection!

Why should you meet with me? – Why it’s going to be good for you.

“I am especially interested in [Industrial Real Estate] and would love to hear your experiences in this field and [Watson’s] current activity.”

This section shows that this isn’t a form email. You are showing that you know about this person, their career, and you will not be wasting their time. The first blank is the specific field (within the broader one mentioned above) that you know the person works in. Show them you’ve done a little research! This can be:

  • [content marketing]
  • [nursing in the ICU]
  • [managing film production]
  • [corporate accounting]

The second blank is the company they currently work for. If self-employed, remove this section.

Call to Action

“I am available at during the following times to meet with you at your convenience:

[Tuesday         8am-1pm

Wednesdays    All Day

Thursdays       Lunch

Fridays            All Day]

Thank you again for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.”

Finally, a call to action. Fill in the blanks for when you are open to meet with them. It shows you are serious. It shows you assume they will say yes, and not offering an option to say no. If you get a response, all the detail is worked out later.

Persistence

Once it’s done, use Gmail’s Canned Responses to save and write these messages over and over again (or use www.grahamwahlberg.com to generate it for you!). I have canned emails for cold emails, warm emails and follow ups, making it easy to type an email address, make small edits and hit “send”.

Once you have someone’s contact info, reach out and ask them for an informational interview. Remember, this is often a numbers game and requires persistence and continual follow ups. If I do not get a response after 2 weeks or so, I’ll forward the old email to the same person with the following text:

“Ron:

I am following up to see if you would have a chance for coffee or lunch. Thanks again for the consideration, and look forward to hearing from you.

[Previous message]”

I’ve followed up with some people I really wanted to meet multiple times, and nobody seems to mind. The Vice President I emailed ten times over as many months before I received a response told me he got every email, but most of the time was too busy or just plain forgot.

Previous: Chapter 4: Find Someone, Anyone

Next: Chapter 6: Setting Up the Interview and Preparation

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